Leadership styles: Hitler vs. Stalin

Why is it that Hitler has come down to us as a much more “accessible” persona than Stalin? I’m curious as to whether we just have better media of Hitler (movies of speeches, etc.) or their leadership styles were do different as to create the difference.

By “accessible” in this case I mean that we have a feeling for how they created policy and behaved so as to effect their leadership goals.

Hitler, as stated above, seems pretty clear. At least until WWII began, he was the Furher of the people, the main presence at innumerable public events, always giving speeches and putting on a big show. His speaking style was highly emotive, full of bluster, and replete with big pronouncements.

At the events, Hitler usually let another high party official emcee, as it were, coming out in the middle or toward the end to deliver the Big Speech. He nourished not only the cult of his own personality, but also the idea of a Folk rising to meet its destiny, with many heroes worthy of praise. I think this is an undernoticed aspect of Hitler’s approach to propaganda: he was not the sole object of adoration; rather there were many, both living and dead (Horst Wessel, etc.).

To discuss Mao only briefly, his approach seems different from Hitler’s in that he was more or less the sole object of adoration (correct me if I err).

Perhaps it is merely my personal ignorance, but Stalin seems merely a cipher as to leadership style. Did he give speeches to the people? Was he the sole or main object of adoration in the party, or did he focus on dead heros (Marx and Lenin)? Did he put on a show for the party or the people, or was he merely a quiet puppet master?

Feel free to support, object to, or add to any of the above. Thanks.

Another point is the nature of party leadership. Hitler, for example, fostered a keen sense of competition between departments. The Third Reich was riven by rivalries and competing spheres of influence, most blatantly in the Goering-Himmler feud. This probably emerged from Hitler’s fear of a coup by his lietenants: the favors and politicking served to weaken them, as he could tip the balance by favoring some.

Stalin had a very different idea. He had a small number of close confidants (Beria) or others who had too much clout to purge (Molotov). Seemingly, every other important political figure was purged and usually killed. This was certainly an effective method of keeping control. It was, if anything, even less efficient than the Soviet model.

Mao I’m not sure about, partly because his cult of personality eclipses anything else. He was virtually worshipped as a god, and even his most mundane decisions took on apocolyptic import. Aside from his utter incompetence, he overshadows any other figures in early Red China.

However, there was seemingly more coercion and less violence than in Stalinist Russia. The Chinese were even more cruel, in a way: they attempted to crush someone’s spirit. Many politicians eventually returned to power (like Deng Xiaoping), just as many ordinary purged Chinese eventually returned home. But they were all… changed. Brutalized.

Hitler got where he went by election. He had to be a public personality and be a good, even an exceptional, speaker. Stalin and Mao? Not so much.

Stalin was a thug who got his job by backroom plots. He did not have to be very accessible. Mao is a middle case, he was the expert in (political) party games. He operated through the unsigned editorial, political symbol and slogan.

I cannot think of any Normal Person Mao ever talked to while in power. He moved in very high circles.

Yes, precisely. One can easily compare Stalin under Lenin to Martin Bormann. Bormann was just not lucky(?) enough to have Hitler have an early and non-fatal stroke.

Did Stalin ever give Hitler-like speeches? Or was he totally unseen by the common man?

I’ll echo what Paul in Saudi said. Hitler was your classic demagogue, he was incredibly focused on being accepted by the people and supported by them. The abject failure of the Beer Hall Putsch taught Hitler that the only way he was going to bring down the Weimar Republic was from within. While he lost election to the Presidency he gave a strong showing in both rounds winning 30.1 and 36.8 percent, Hindenburg won 49.6 and 53.0 respectively, his Nazi party had something like 48% of the seats in the Reichstag as a result of more or less legitimate election outcomes (there was certainly some ugliness involved but the elections were mostly free and the Nazis were genuinely a successful, popular party.) He eventually boxed Hindenburg into a corner in which he had to appoint Hitler Chancellor. Once made Chancellor Hitler gradually and subtly increased his power, eventually as Hindenburg fell into senility Hitler won yet another election and consolidated even more power. Eventually the enabling act is passed and the rest is history.

Because Hitler viewed his power as being directly linked to the people, it was always important that he had the support of the people, and if he couldn’t have that, their respect, and if he couldn’t have that then he would settle for them being too afraid of him to resist his rule.

Stalin wasn’t much different from most of the Soviet rulers who followed him in how he came to power. In the Soviet Union, there was basically two USSRs, important members of the Communist Party, and every one else. Within the halls of power of the Communist Party, alliances, important positions on the politburo and et cetera determined how powerful you were. By back room maneuvering and building support amongst the high ranking political and military leaders of the Communist Party, you could secure for yourself leadership of the USSR.

In the USSR, leading the Communist Party meant that you lead the USSR, the “real” leaders of the Soviet Union from Stalin’s takeover til the end of Gorbachev’s rule was always the ‘General Secretary of the Communist Party.’ An office Stalin held before he actually took control of the USSR, and an office through which he eventually took control. The Soviet “Premier” was not the important office, although most people probably remember that Soviet leaders throughout the Cold War were referred to in the West as “Premier” (even though, aside from Khrushchev I don’t believe any of the Soviet leaders actually held the office of Premier, but all of them were General Secretary.)

The USSR’s leadership then was essentially a bureaucracy, where privately conducted party politics determined who ruled and how long. A man like Stalin, who held strict control over the party ruled as an absolute dictator. Whereas Khrushchev ruled essentially as a dictator, his command of the party was never absolute, and thus he could be removed from power by other members of the party as he was in 1964 (and even non-violently to boot.)

For this reason, the General Secretary wasn’t beholden to the people. They did not achieve leadership through demagoguery. The people of the USSR were controlled through loyalty to the party, so being extremely devoted or loyal to one individual sort of got in the way of building absolutely loyalty to the party. In the USSR, the Communist Party really was the State, and while it had leaders of varying power throughout its history, ultimately the party itself, and not the individual General Secretaries was the true ruling force in the USSR.

Within the Soviet Union the only real idol-worship that was widely accepted was of Lenin. While Stalin established his own cult of personality he was really the only Soviet leader who did so, and from the moment Khrushchev took over the party, while never outright condemning Stalin played him down significantly for the rest of Soviet history.

I don’t know if Stalin ever gave any speeches. I know he released statements to the soldiers during World War II, I’m not sure if he ever addressed them directly or the Soviet people directly in the form of an open air speech to a large crowd.

Another possible factor is that more English-speaking historians, especially in earlier decades, more likely know German than know Russian (or Chinese), so we get more about Hitler.

I agree with Frank and Paul. The differences in their personalities is reflective of the differences in their paths to power. Hitler was the founder of his movement and needed popular support to rise to power. Stalin inherited the power structure he took over and he needed support within an existing organization that already had control of the country.

Stalin was did make some speechs via radio. But he was never noted as a particularly effective public speaker (among other things he had a non-Russian accent) and didn’t rely on speaking as a tool.

Thanks for the insights, Dopers!

Hitler seems more accessable than Stalin he made cute little home movies of him dancing jauntily, playing with his dog & having fun with his girlfriend.

Stalin ruled via the Politburo-and made sure that others signed their names to decrees-like when he authorized the “liquidation” of "enemies of the state’-Stalin ALWAYS made sure that other’s signatures were on the documents. That way, if something went wrong (like the disastrous invasion of Finland), Stalin could have fall guys to take the blame. Hitler needed none of this-he ruled by direct decree.

Hitler also could be really funny if he wanted to. Here’s an excerpt of a speech where he’s ridiculing Roosevelt.

This particular clip was discussed in this thread back in February.

Stalin made himself Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (ie Premier) during World War II. This was so he’d be the de jure Soviet head of government. Unlike Brezhnev and Gorbachev he never made himself the head of state (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet). Lenin was the first Chairman of the CPC; the General Secretaryship was originally an administrative post that Stalin got because nobody else wanted it. After Lenin died he transformed in the supreme leadership role. After Stalin died it was briefly renamed First Secretary.

Those weren’t meant for release to the general German public. The average German had never heard of Eva Braun/Hitler until after her and Adolf killed themselves.

Isn’t a sort of “shoot em now or shoot em later” kind of issue?

The hands of a few decide who get into the history books. These textbooks are then dispersed throughout the country. Indeed, the leadership abilities of these individuals were well received. Unfortunately, these leaders used their abilities to make questionable contributions to society. However, at the time, it is important to realize that few dared to question their motives at the time.

He was very little seen or heard, really. He did address the nation after the German invasion and it was a sufficiently rare occurrence to be noted as such in history books. Hitler, of course, was a practised and skilled speaker.

Stalin and Hitler were both terrible leaders. Stains paranoia decimated the military and civil society. Hitler megalomania caused him to overrule his general constantly and hold back the German military. The allies even gave up on trying to assassinate Hitler since his incompetence was helping the allies win the war. Neither was particularly competent.

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Stalin would give speeches at the party congress. Recordings of these speeches were distributed throughout the country. Usually one LP side would be taken up by the applause after the speech since everyone at the speech would be afraid to be the first to stop clapping. Apparently at the beginning of a speech Stalin would press a button to let everyone know they could stop clapping.
He would also be seen at May Day parades.

Stalin gave the famous “Motherland” speech after the Nazi invasion, and this might have been the most significant contribution he made (or could have made) to the defense of the USSR against Hitler’s forces. He unified public opinion (there had been some wavering) against the enemy.

AIUI, some Russians were so fed up with Stalin that they welcomed the German invaders as liberators. At first, and very briefly. Before long, they found out that for anyone not of German blood, Hitler’s tyranny was even worse.